Is Cognitive Strain Hindering Your Sales Process?

By Jeff Shore

​Decision-making is really an exercise in how to process uncertainty. Where there is no uncertainty, there is no decision.

I’m hungry – should I eat? Not much of a decision, right? There is certainty in the facts (I’m hungry) and so the outcome is fait accompli (I eat!).

But what should I eat? I’m at a Cheesecake Factory and I have literally hundreds of options in front of me. How much uncertainty do I face? Consider the myriad sub-decisions I must make in order to land on a selection:

  • How hungry am I?
  • Do I want to eat healthy and, if so, what are my motivations to do so?
  • Do I want to eat whatever the heck I want and, if so, what are the consequences (physical and mental)?
  • Who am I with, and how should that affect my decision?
  • How much do I want to spend?
  • Do I want leftovers?
  • Should I order an appetizer?
  • Should I factor in room for dessert?
  • What did I eat last night?
  • What am I eating tomorrow?

The list could go on, but you can grasp the dilemma – there are simply too many decisions for a normal person to process!

That uncertainty weighs on my mind. Each unresolved issue nags me. Psychologists call the frustration I feel “cognitive disfluency.” I prefer a different term: brain strain.

As a countering example, consider In-n-Out Burgers, the west coast fast-food chain. At In-n-Out they list every item they offer on a small menu board above the cashier: hamburger, cheeseburger, fries. No brain strain.

Now, consider the purchase of a home. This is not one decision; it is a thousand decisions of varying kinds. I must weigh each of those decisions, but I must simultaneously weigh how significant decisions are. How important is each consideration, relative to every other consideration?

Brain strain!

Think about just a few of the decisions in buying a home:

  • Where do I want to live, and why do I want to live there?
  • What is it about my current situation that isn’t going to work in the long run? How severe is that dissatisfaction?
  • How does this decision affect my family? My friends?
  • Am I really up for this task? Moving is a big deal.
  • How do I decide what is truly important in my next home? What are the wants and what are the needs?
  • Can I afford this? Can I still live the lifestyle I want after I move in?
  • What does my family need out of this? What is important to them?

But wait. Those are just a few of the BIG decisions. Here’s a small sampling of the minor decision list:

  • Carpet or hardwood in the great room?
  • Should I include insurance in the mortgage payment or pay it separately?
  • What do I do with the treadmill? I haven’t used it in years.
  • How do I find boxes when it comes time to pack?
  • What will my co-workers think about this move?
  • Do I hire movers or do it myself?
  • How much work do I want to do on my current place before I sell it?
  • Where are interest rates? Where will they be if I wait?
  • How important is solar?
  • I need to pack the garage.

Did you catch that? Even small decisions cause uncertainties that increase our mental dissonance. Pack the garage – yikes. Did you just feel a chill down your spine?

Enter the sales professional.

Salespeople truly are heroes. What do heroes do? They swoop in when someone is in distress and they save the day.

The task of the salesperson is to make it easy for a buyer to buy. That’s it. Our responsibility is to move our customer from cognitive strain to cognitive ease; from disfluency to fluency.

The technique we use for this purpose? Closing skills.

That might sound counter-intuitive but stay with me on this.

Every time a customer makes a mini-decision they experience a subtle sense of resolution. Boom! One less uncertainty, one less decision, one piece of my brain freed up.

We don’t ask closing questions to make the boss happy, or because we feel guilty if pass up such opportunities. We ask these small decision questions because it makes the process of buying so much easier on the customer.

If you want to make it easy for your customer to purchase, you need to establish a decision-making rhythm. A prospect should never go too long without making some kind of decision that moves the process forward.

Every decision checks a box. Every decision reduces strain. Every decision moves the purchase process along. Every decision takes you a step closer to being a hero.

And, every decision brings you closer to changing your customer’s world.

Jeff Shore’s brand-new video series 10 Closing Truths.

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About the Author: Jeff Shore

Jeff Shore

Jeff Shore is the Founder and President of Shore Consulting, Inc. a company specializing in field-tested and proven consumer psychology-based sales training programs.

Jeff is a top-selling author, host of the popular sales podcast, The Buyer’s Mind, and an award-winning keynote speaker. He holds the prestigious Certified Speaking Professional designation from the National Speakers Association and is a member of the NSA’s exclusive Million Dollar Speaker’s Group.

With over 30 years of real-world, frontline experience, Jeff’s advanced sales strategies spring from extensive research into the psychology of buying and selling. He teaches salespeople how to climb inside the mind of their customers to sell the way their buyers want to buy. Using these modern, game-changing techniques, Jeff Shore’s clients generated over $30 billion in sales last year.